Prague Spring International Music Festival

Prague Spring International Music Festival

Often associated with classical music and rightly so, the Prague Spring International Music Festival has opened it’s arms over the years to a variety of musical instruments and genres. The history of the May festival dates back more than a Century and can largely be divided into pre-WW2 and post WW2.

Smetana Hall, one of the Prague Spring International Music Festival venues
Smetana Hall, one of the Prague Spring International Music Festival venues

Before World War 2

A May music festival has been held in Prague since 1899 when it was exclusively performed at what was the Second German Theatre. That location is now called the State Opera but the music festival was suspended during the first world war and the ensuing independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It’s not until 1924 when it was properly resurrected and opening night was moved to the specific date of May 12th. The date is significant as it commemorates the death on May 12th 1884 of the famous Czech composer Bedrich Smetana. In 1939 it was called the Prague May Music Festival and was performed at the National Theatre.

After World War 2

What is now known as the Prague Spring International Music Festival was formed by Czech composer Rafael Kubelík and first held in 1946 on the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. That festival was the overseas conducting debut of Leonard Bernstein. It soon became not only the signature music festival in the country but also an internationally recognised collection of Czechs and elite foreign musical talent. It took the name “Prague Spring” as it emerged from 6 years of Nazi occupation. Rafael Kubelík was exiled after 1968 but returned in 1990 to a post-revolution country.

Post Revolution

1990 was the first Prague Spring International Music Festival since the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia. In that festival Rafael Kubelík (the founder of the festival back in 1946) opened with a performance of Bedrich Smetana’s signature nationalist work called “Má Vlast” (it means My Country). The 1990 festival was closed on the last night with Leonard Bernstein as the conductor.

The Competition

You may not realise it but the first week of the Prague Spring International Music Festival is loaded with the finals for many classical instruments. These musicians are not kids. Very often there is a minimum age of at least 30 required before somebody can even apply to enter but if you like a particular instrument then look out for tickets to these competition events.

The Actual Prague Spring International Music Festival

On the evening of May 11th we have the “informal prelude” which takes renowned young Czech musicians and puts them in an environment where they can entertain you with something a bit different. The venue for the prelude changes year-by-year. Historically, since 1952, the Prague Spring International Music Festival hosts the first concert beginning with Smetana’s “Má Vlast” on May 12th. It continues until first week of June.

The Prague Spring International Music Festival is spread over many venues (often more than 20 different locations) mainly internal but, some external as well. In the past venues have included the Smetana at the Municipal House and both concert halls at the Rudolfinum, four theatres, six churches and basilicas, Vyšehrad cemetery, and Prague Castle to mention just a few. Every day of the festival will have one or more concerts at 8pm. Several of the days will have multiple performances including the regular Saturday morning concerts that start at 11am and what a choice:

Classical theatre performances
Classical auditorium performances
Chamber Music
Modern Music and Invention

Dress Codes

It’s dress up time throughout the whole festival. Even the “Informal Prelude” only means that the performers will not be in black tie. Everybody will be smartly dressed.

Buying Tickets

Prague Spring International Music Festival tickets can be purchased direct from the Prague Spring ticketing agent. Here you can view/download the Festival Schedule.


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